Deen Maar Indigenous Protected Area (Vic)

Tim Dolby

This article originally appeared in VicBabbler, a journal of Birds Australia.

Deen Maar was the traditional Aboriginal name for Lady Julia Percy Island, but today this name has been given to a stretch of coastal wetland on the southwest coast of Victoria. Deen Maar lies 21 kilometres to the west of Port Fairy on the western reaches of Yambuk Lake. As a natural tributary of the Eumarella River, the area forms an extensive wetland that attracts an abundance of water birds.

Magpie Geese: Deen Maar.

Originally purchased in 1993 using funds from the National Heritage Trust, in 1999 the 453 ha property became Victoria’s first Indigenous Protected Area. From the mid-1800s the land was used for primary production, however under the guidance of the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust the local Gunditjmara people have been restoring Deen Maar's riparian estuaries and wetland environments by increasing water flows, undertaking extensive native revegetation, and conducting feral and weed control programs.

A number of rarities have been recorded at Deen Maar. It is a Victorian strong hold for wintering Orange-bellied Parrot, with a flock of 18 birds seen there in July 1999. It is also the only reliable site in Victoria for Grass Owl, which has recently been recorded roosting in the grassland on the edge of the wetland. Painted Snipe have been recorded at Deen Maar, and both Hooded Plover and Sanderling can be found along the adjoining beach. The property also has a healthy population of Emu and Magpie Geese. Both Plumed Whistling-Duck and Lewin’s Rail have also been recorded in the area.


Some of the water birds recorded at Deen Maar include Brolga, Australasian Bittern, Spotless, Spotted and Billion’s Crake, Buff-banded Rail, Latham's Snipe, Black-tailed Native-hen, Purple Swamphen, Ducky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot, Red-kneed, Red-capped and Black-fronted Dotterel, White-faced and Pacific Heron, Hoary Headed and Australasian Grebe, Musk Duck, Grey and Chestnut Teal, Great and Little Egret, Yellow and Royal Spoonbill, and there are large numbers of Black Swan and Australian Pelican. Other birds include Sharp-tailed Shearwater, which nest in the coastal dunes, Little Penguin, a variety of terns including Fairy, Caspian, Crested and Whiskered Tern, Pacific and Kelp Gull, Australasian Gannet, and both Spotted and Swamp Harrier. Aside from Sanderling, waders regularly seen include Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Non-Passerines include White-fronted Chat, Striated Calamanthus, Golden-headed Cisticola, Little Grassbird, Clamorous Reed-warbler, White-winged Triller and White-browed Woodswallow.

Due to this wide variety of birds Deen Maar is being investigated as a potential Ramsar site. There is however some debate over the potential use of the property for wind generators as part of the Portland Wind Energy Project.

Access to Deen Maar. Unfortunately access to Deen Maar is restricted and all inquiries about visiting the property should be directed through the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust in Purnim. There is however open access to the east side Yambuk Lake, with good camping facilities on the edge of the lake. There is also plenty accommodation in the nearby towns of by Port Fairy and Portland.

Tim Dolby